Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Week in Review 4.28.13

Race week! With the St. Jude Country Music Half Marathon on Saturday there isn’t a whole lot of training going on.

Monday I went out early in the morning for 5K.  Leg was a bit sore but felt pretty good.   3.1Mi in 32:52, a pace of 10:36, about 10 seconds per mile faster than Monday of last week.

Tuesday was an off day because I didn't want to get up.

Wednesday was another 5K, this time at the gym because of some rainy weather.  At least I finally got to break out my “I’m training for the Zombie Apocalypse” shirt I got at the Rock n Roll USA expo (you can get them at one more mile if you’re interested). 3.1 mi in 33:37, a pace of 10:51 (I’m always slower on the treadmill).
Thursday was a weight training day at the gym focusing on core and upper body.

Friday: Travel to Nashville and a walk around the expo for…

Saturday St. Jude Country Music Half Marathon!!!  13.1 mi in 2:19:11 a 10:38 pace and a new PR!!!.  Keep checking back for my expo and race recap, along with all the fun stories from a night of bar hopping form Honky Tonk to Honky Tonk.

Miles run last week 19.3

Miles run this year 207.5

Miles left to 1K in 2013: 792.5 (22.64 miles per week over the next 35 weeks up .09 from last week)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Race Selection

There are a LOT of races out there, and whether you’re picking race number 1 or 100 there are several things to consider when choosing your next race.  Here are the top 5 races in my humble expert opinion.

Distance: The first thing in choosing a race is what distance are you going to do?   There are races from 1 to 50 miles, and everything in between.  Most people starting out will pick a 5K, but I’m going to argue against it.  I think you should pick something that’s crazy.  Pull a half marathon out of your hat.  Do something that will truly shake things up.  Go big or go home.
I’ve found that if you plan a shorter race and train solely for that distance, it will end up being an excuse not moving to a longer distance later in the year.  You’ll claim that you won’t have enough time to get up to that longer distance and it will get back burnered until next year (unless you live somewhere like California where you can run outside all year round, then you have no excuse slackers).  By picking a longer distance you’ll have a goal that will be really challenging and will help your times at the shorter distances.  Also you can use the shorter races as training runs for your ultimate goal. 

Location: I’ve said it before, I love traveling to run.  It’s a great way to meet new people and reconnect with old friends.  Most races take you through or by the iconic landmarks of the city, so if it’s a place you haven’t been to before then it’s a great way to see the sights, and if you are returning, it’s a great way to get reacquainted with them.  Also the biggest benefit of traveling to run is being on vacation!  You’re in a hotel with someone cleaning up after you, cooking your food, and if your planning is good, you’re staying right near the start line so there is no need to worry about getting to the corrals.  Plus after a long race there is nothing better than going out, meeting some locals and other racers, and hitting the hot spots the city is known for (or any bar you can find a seat at because no one wants to be on their feet anymore).
On the other hand when you run near your home it can be an advantage as well.  When you’re training, you’re able to run part or the entire race course.  You know how to get to the start line, how long it will take to get there and how to navigate around road closures.  Also you can guilt your friends and family in to coming and cheering you on.
There is a give and take with running both at home and on vacation, but make sure you don’t exclude a race just because of its location.

Amenities:  Do you want to run while being covered in color?  This isn't 50 shades of grey we're talking about.   Do you want to run at night with lights attached to you?  You can sparkle all you want.  Do you want to just run and get a couple of free beers at the end?  Drink Up!  Do you want to run from Zombies?  You know they’re just using you for your braaaiiinnnnssss.  Do you want to run through an obstacle course?  Yes, yes and…aw hell, there are so many of these types of races now go find them yourself.
You can find almost any kind of race out there so think about what you want your race to be and how you want to remember it, but most of all just remember to have fun.

Date:  While the date is probably the least important of these five things to consider it can’t be totally ignored.  The most important thing to think about in terms of your race date is to be sure that you have enough time to train for the race.  Under training can lead to injury and keep you out longer than if you just picked a race a couple of more weeks away.
Honorable mention for the date category is weather conditions.  Racing and training in different climates can make for a slow race. Trust me, I know.  Also running in really hot or really cold weather might not be your cup of tea so the date can come into play a couple of ways.

x-Factor: Let’s face it, some races are just cooler than others.  The New York Marathon is the largest in the world.  The armed forces marathons help honor those who serve.  Some races are put on just to help raise money for charity.  These races and many others just have something that the others don’t, and for many people that’s the draw.  

What do you consider when choo-choo-choosing a race?  (10 points for knowing what I’m referencing, but they won't help you because like “Who’s Line is it Anyways?” the points do not matter here either.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Week in Review 4.21.13

Drew’s running week in review, where to begin?  I was slowed a bit last week due to soreness in my right calf.  It limited the miles I was able to run, but a couple of days off later in the week helped.  

Monday I went out early with a 5K run to start the week.   3.1Mi in 33:10, a pace of 10:46.

Because of an impromptu day off on Tuesday I was able to take a mid morning run which I cut short of my 5 mile goal due to soreness in my leg.  4Mi in 41:56, a 10:29 pace.

I took Wednesday and Thursday off to rest and hopefully stop the soreness in my leg and looked forward to a nice 5 mile run on Friday.  “Friday?  Drew I don’t see any run keeper data for you on Friday.”  Well that would be correct; I was asked to “Shelter in place” by the Watertown PD on the nicest day of the year so far.  A bummer from a training perspective but it gave my leg an extra day of rest and got a couple of bad guys off the street.

Saturday I went out running in my little town which is now know worldwide.  I ran throughout the town including the near the now famous boat. Leg felt good and I managed a more half marathon like pace.  7.5 mi in 1:25:17 a 11:22 pace

Miles run last week 14.6

Miles run this year 188.2

Miles left to 1K in 2013: 811.8 (22.55 miles per week over the next 36 weeks)

TV trucks temain at the Watertown Mall

Reporting from "The Boat"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013

Originally I had planned to write a short blog post on the Boston Marathon and its uniqueness from the point of view from a Boston transplant, but instead I’m writing to share my experience of that day.  If you do want to read on why Boston is so important to runners then please read what Toni Reavis has already said here.  This is a bit heavier than I would like for this blog and not as harrowing as some but its my story.

Entrance to the Boston Marathon Expo
On the Friday before the marathon I made my way down to the Expo from my office before it started to get too crowded.  For those of you who haven’t run a lot, the expo is where you pick up your number, t-shirt, and other swag your registration paid for.  In addition to that there are tons of health and running exhibitors selling everything from race tees to massage chairs (no I wasn’t able to try one out, I had to get back to work).  Marathon Sports, whose flagship store is at the finish line, was having a 50% off sale at the expo, so I was able to pick me up a nice new running jacket and help support a local business.

The atmosphere at the expo was electric.  You could feel the excitement and couldn’t help but be caught up in it.  For a couple of years now I have been thinking about running Boston, and this really strengthened my feelings about trying to run it.
For those of you who haven’t had the chance to go, marathon Monday is something uniquely Boston.  Other than in Lexington and Concord where reenactments take place to commemorate the start of the revolutionary war there is little fanfare.  In Boston the best comparison would be a warm weather St. Patrick’s Day.  The bars open early and people are in line to get in before that.   The Red Sox start their game at 11AM to allow for people to get to the game through the road closures.  What other professional sport has a start time before noon?  The spectators come early (there were a few lining the course down near the finish line when I arrived just after 8AM over an hour before it started over 26 miles away) and as the first winner comes across the line they’re as many as 10 deep in places all the way from the start to finish.  Oh and they are loud.  It’s been said that you can hear the women at Wellesley College a half mile away, and I knew when this year’s female winner Rita Jeptoo made the well known left turn onto Boylston as I heard the crowd 22 floors below me scream in delight.

A view from my office.  A Lone Runner completes that last quarter mile as fans look on.
Now as a rule of thumb, most people who work outside of the city don’t get it off as a holiday, and most of us who do work in the city do get it off.  Seeing as I work just past mile 26 and a half block off the course it makes perfect sense that I have to fight the road closures and crowds on my way into the office.  Being in the area and a runner I thought I would make the best of it, so just before lunch I left my computer in the trusty hands of one of our IT folks to fix an update issue, and headed down to grab some lunch and watch some of the race.  It was just after noon.
After an easy lunch I walked out and watched the race at the 26 mile mark for about a half hour until just after the 3 hour mark hoping to see one of my co-workers (he is OK).  I didn’t get to see him, but it was an inspiring scene to see all the people fighting their way through the 26.2 mile.  Loud cheers rose several times when fathers pushing their sons in wheelchairs came by, and I had to cover my ears when group military personnel carrying a full rucksacks and an American flag made their way by us.  Yes it’s that loud. 

The view from Mile 26
I took some pictures and starting texting my wife and my friend Brandon who is an avid marathoner and trying to do 50 marathons in 50 states.  I was trying to convince him to apply to a charity with me next year and run the Boston Marathon.  If you’re doing one in mass might was well do Boston!  Eventually I had to go back to work so I started my way back up to my office.  It was just after 1pm.

Up the stairs back towards my office
After arriving back in my office I talked to one of my co-workers and told her about what it was like down there and encouraged her to go down and check it out.  When she took her lunch she said she was going to check it out for a while.  She returned just before 2:45 and came over to talk about it.  She agreed that the warm weather and festivities merit a day off, and then our talk turned to our co-worker.  We looked up his time and based upon the tracking I just missed him by a few minutes.

Suddenly there was a loud boom and the building shook.  I thought to myself that it was strange only to be shocked into realization of what was happening when the building shook again a few second later.  I jumped up from desk to the window.  Below us throngs of people ran in one direction, to our left away from where the blasts had occurred.  To my right a cloud of white smoke rose above the buildings.  I ran back to my desk and turned to twitter but saw nothing indicating what happened.  I typed a hurried and misspelled warning to Boston followers who might be in the area.  I specifically didn’t use the word “bomb” because I wasn’t sure and was hopeful that was not the case.  I quickly headed over to the other side of the building to see if we could see anything.
The office was fairly empty due to the road closures and more than half of those remaining were in the stairwells heading down to the street as soon as they processed what happened.  The remaining group looked out over the windows that faced Boylston Street.  Most of the street level was blocked by a building but what was visible was a clutter of fallen barricades, discarded signs and lost belonging.  Emergency vehicles raced up the street towards the finish.  Sadly the view from the window that I posted above remains the same but eerily empty of people, the dunkin’ donuts truck standing empty.  A better blogger would take a picture for this part but I choose not to.  This is not how I want to remember Patriots day, the marathon nor Boston.

I quickly called my boss to fill her in on what was happening.  I called so soon after the blasts that the cell network was not yet overwhelmed.  After that I wasn’t able to call out on my cell again for over two hours until I was in Brighton, but strangely text and data continued to work.  It appeared that the attack was on the marathon and so I quickly made a plan to stay in place until people had left the area and police swept it.  I threw my sneakers then called my wife from my work phone and let her know that I was OK and that I was going to stay for a while.  I charged my phone and filled a water bottle figuring I would have to walk the 6 miles home. About fifteen minutes later an announcement came in urging us to stay where we were.  A little late but thanks.
Work was done for the day.  Those of us left in the office mulled around and talked about what we had seen and heard.  I tried to update my friends and family as best I could.  The sirens were non-stop for God knows how long.  Whenever I hear a lot of sirens I’m afraid I’ll be taken back to those twin blasts.

Around 4pm I decided it was time to go.  I packed up my things and was greeted with a third announcement asking us to “shelter in place”.  Thanks but no thanks, so I headed out to the elevator and down to the prudential center.  They had my wing closed off blocking access to Copley mall and Ring Rd, but allowed be to exit towards the Pru.  As I made my way to the center of the mall I was greeted by about 100 people waiting for loved ones.  Some people were crying, some consoling but all looking scared.  This was a scene that would repeat as I passed large groups of people on my journey home.

I made my way through the Sheraton and out to Mass Ave taking a right towards the Charles.  As I passed through groups of people and the sun bore down I started to get hot, but I thought better of stopping to put my back pack down and take off my fleece.  I would have to sweat to the esplanade.  I passed Comm Ave which was barren except for a few marathoners with medals and Mylar blankets, and a pair of drunks in Sox gear.  One was trying to move his friend along while the other seems to want to talk to every police officer he passed trying to wrap his mind around the day’s events.
A few minutes later I was at the bridge and down to the esplanade. I walked leapfrogging a mother and daughter as each of us stopped for a break.  They were making their way to Harvard Business School the only way that we could as public transportation was shut down and cabs full.  I thought about making a sign that read “Watertown” to see if anyone would pick me up, but decided against it.  Over the next hour or so I trekked away from the city until I reached soldiers field road and was picked up by a friend who took me to my car.  The next morning when I checked my e-mail there was a message from Bandon asking how we could sign up for next year’s marathon.  Damn right!  Barring an injury we’ll be applying this September to run Boston in 2014.

Today is Wednesday my first day back to work after the bombing.  We go to work amid SWAT teams and national guardsmen.  Marathon Sports where I purchased some new shoes exactly one week ago is heavily damaged and only open to law enforcement.  Some of my co-workers appear shaken but we’re here and defiant.  At lunch I went down and purchased one of the last remaining Boston Marathon running shirts I could find.  To honor the victims and my city I will wear it at the remainder of my races this year starting next Saturday in Nashville, and if all goes well next year as I cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon April 21, 2014.  Mark your calendars and remember right on Hereford left on Boylston.  See you at the finish.
My New Race Shirt

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Great Expectations

No matter what distance, where or when you run a race usually falls into one of three categories: “I killed it”, “it kicked my asphalt” or “meh”.  So how do you go into a race making sure you come out feeling that runners high?  I’ve found that setting the appropriate expectations can go a long way in making you feel like a winner even if you finish near the back of the pack, and the faster you realized that you were wrong, the faster you can get your mind right.  Here's a look back at my Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas experience.

If you asked in this past October, there was no doubt in my mind.  I knew that come December I was going to set a new PR.  The only question was, is this the half where I break the two hour barrier.  I was set up to succeed on so many levels:
-   This half was just six weeks after my first full marathon so I was going to be in the best running shape of my life
-   The course was so flat that the highest elevation gain is a kin to stepping up on a curb
-   It was in vegas where the warm dry climate perfect for running

There was no way I could fail…until I did…spectacularly.  The sub two hour half I was expecting turned into a nearly three hour, stop filled shuffle through the streets of Las Vegas.  On that day and in the days leading up to the race several events conspired against me including two of the things I thought would be my strengths on that day.
-  I was just six weeks removed from my first marathon.  Training for and completing the Marine Corps Marathon took a huge toll on me.  My legs hurt and running just ten miles seemed so boring after completing 26.2 so I wasn’t able to/didn’t want to train as effectively as I should have for the Vegas half.
-  It’s hard running in a warm dry climate when you’re training in near freezing temperatures.  While it was sunny and in the low 60’s at the start of the race in Vegas, I had done most of my training runs in the early morning darkness of an early New England winter.  Not only was I not accustomed to the warmer weather the dry dehydrated me to the point where I had to literally stop at each water station.
-  I didn’t run the race I was going to run.  As I said most of my training runs were done in the early morning starting just after my alarm went off at 5AM, but the pull of the Vegas half that you run the strip at night which means a 4:30 in the afternoon start time.  Add in the 45 extra minutes before my coral started plus a three hour time difference and I was starting a race at a time I was normally winding down for the day.  My internal clock didn’t tell me I was hungry so I didn’t eat a good pre-race meal, and my body thought I would be slowing down for the day right when I should be gearing up to run 13.1.
-  I was in Disney world for adults.  I didn’t take into account that I was supposed to be having fun.  A night before the race Aerosmith show combined with everything else one does on their first trip to Vegas, meant that physically, I wasn’t in a good place.  On top of all that, my arrival was delayed nearly three hours so that my bedtime was closer to 7AM est, two hours after I get up during the week.

Looking back on it now, I should have seen how outrageous my expectations of this race were but sometimes you can be so blinded by the time on the clock (and the bright lights on the strip) that you lose sight of why you’re there in the first place.  For many of us it’s the journey to get there and not what time you need to be there (especially when flying US air).  Making sure you have realistic and race appropriate expectations go along way in determining what kind of race experience you have.
Despite my initial expectations I was able to see that I was way off and adjusted my thinking early into the race.  Along the way I stopped with the missus to get my picture taken in front of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign and took time to watch a band which was accompanied a fire breathing praying mantis.  All these led to slower than molasses time but made the trip one in a million.

One of the many stops along the way in vegas

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Medal Maddness

Now that March (and most of the madness) is over it's time to start thinking about spring. The weather is warmer and those of us in the north can start training outside again. Once that runners high kicks in it's time to think about which races you want to do.  There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a race. Location, course, in race features such as obstacles, swag and let’s not forget the medal.

For most distances beyond 5K! runners will usually receive a medal, and these aren’t the participant trophy that you got in little league, running longer distances is an accomplishment.  (What do you mean your little league trophy said "first place"?) Running these distances is a challenge and takes many weeks of training before you can even get to the start line.  The medal is the embodiment of that work.  Weekly training runs in pre-dawn hours or those long weekend runs in the rain aren’t glamorous and you deserve a metaphorical pat on the back.

 Rock n Roll Arizona and desert double down medals hanging out at the Grand Canyon

The makers of medals have a hard job.  They have to boil down a race, a city and a theme into something about the size of an iPhone that you can wear around your neck.  On top of all that it needs to attractive so that people actually want to wear it, because that’s kind of the point of getting a medal.  I’ve seen people wearing their medals everywhere from bars, to airplanes to concerts.  A good medal goes a long way in making a complete race.

Almost any type of medal you could think of, and some you would never, are out there.  Just google it!
-          Medals shaped like lobster claws?  Check!
-          Medals shaped like aliens?  Beam me up Scottie!
-          Medals that glow in the dark?  There is a light at the end of that tunnel!
-          Medals shaped like Pirates?  Ahoy matey!
-          Medals shaped like surfboards that double as a bottle opener?  Yes please!
-          Season medals?  Santa, Halloween and even the Easter bunny are all represented.
-          Medals made out of wood?  Is that still a medal?

You get the picture, the medal is the embodiment of the race, they can be fun, they can be showy and they can also be a good recruiting tool, which brings us to one cold evening in December 2011.
As our annual holiday party was winding down, and the discussion started to turn to my wife’s homage to her 2011 running.  She had run three halfs that year (one more than me) and the medals for those along with her rock ‘n’ roll heavy medals were hanging on the door to our china cabinet.  As we talked about each race and how much fun it would be to have some of my old high school friends run with me, we were met with the usual opposition.  “That’s too far.”  “I have to commit to running how much?” but no matter what the mouth said, the eyes kept coming back to the medals.  By the end of the discussion one of my friends was wearing a medal and that (along with some pinot grigio) was enough to reel them in, and a few months later we were all signed up. 

2011 Half Marathon Medals double as a recruiting tool

We all lived in different cities so we had to train (or not) by ourselves, but we kept each other in the loop about what we were doing (see my first post about facebook).  Nine months later everyone converged on Rode Island where we would all be running the rock ‘n’ roll Providence half marathon together.  Race day was here and as we waited for the start, there were a lot of nerves for everyone.  For the first timers it was along the lines of “If I die during the race I’m coming back to haunt you for getting me into this” which I thought very unlikely for two people in very good shape.  For me it was “what happens when these guys blow through the course and finish two hours in front of me” which seemed much more likely.

 The race started and I couldn’t find my wife.  My friends and I were still in the line port-a-potty as our corral crossed the starting line.  Had I bit off more than I could chew?  Had I pushed my friends down a path they weren’t ready for?  We made our way to the closest coral and received a text message that my wife had crossed the starting line, at lease someone made it to the right coral, and a few minutes later we were off.  At first it looked like at least half of my fear was taking hold as one of my friends sped off on his own to complete the race in just over an 8 minute per mile pace, but I knew I had to run my own race if I wanted to finish and enjoy doing it.  After a few more miles my other friend outpaced me and now everyone was on their own.

Just before mile 10 I got the first text message that one of my friends had finished, then about two miles later another text with the same message, and about 15 minutes later I crossed the finish line myself.  At the end of the day, none of our fears were realized, my friends had set out and completed their first half marathons something that seemed so foreign to them less than a year ago, and I had the joy of sharing it with them (along a new PR).

The Plainville crew tastes sweet victory...and something slightly metallic

The moral of the story is that a medal is more than a medal.  It's a pat on the back, a validation, a story in itself, and sometime even more than that. 

Looking for some races with cool medals?  Check out Active.com's list here of the best race day medals.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Welcome to 13.11

Welcome to 13.11 more than half crazy my blog about running.  Here I will dazzle you with my insights into running and help you work your way into a world class runner.  Actually that's a lie.  I've been looking for (another) place to bother my friends and people I meeting while running with tales about my running outside of what I already post on facebook, twitter (follow me at @drewsant) and runkeeper (@runkeeper).  I hope that I can provide people with some interesting stories and some neat gear and products I find along the way, and perhaps inspire some more people to join me in a race or two.

Let get this out of the way first.  I don't particularly like running.  It hurts, it's time consuming and despite what you might think it cost money.  "So why do you run?" you didn't ask.  Well there are a couple of reasons. 

First and foremost are the health benefits.  I started running to train for a 5K and at that point I was pushing 300 pounds and could only jog about 3 minutes at a time.  As I started a couch to 5K program that I found and not long after I started noticing how much more I could run and how much weight I was losing.  I haven't lost everything I wanted but running has made a big difference in how I live my life.  Plus I like beer, pizza and wings.  The more I run, the more calories I burn.  The more calories I burn the more beer, pizza and wings I can eat.  I've found it's hard to eat and drink your way out of a caloric hole burned by running 13.1 miles no matter how much local cuisine you wish to sample.

The second reason is based on a rule I've found works with almost everything in life.  Running is what you make it.  If you make running fun, it will be fun.  If you make running a chore, it will be a chore, so I choose to make it fun.  I choose to make it fun by seeing new things and meeting new people.  This year I signed up for the a pass that allows me to do any race in the Rock 'n' Roll marathon series.  So far I've been to Vegas, Phoenix and Washington D.C using it, with at least 9 more stops on the way (don't worry I'll bore you with all the details as we move along).  I've been to the Grand Canyon, been white water rafting and met great people on my trips.  Like I said running is what you make it.

The final reason I run is that I like bling.  But more on that in a future post.

Feel free to ask my novice advice and/or join me in a race and hopefully I'll see you back here in the future.